Monday, June 01, 2009

Confusion Rules On Justice Dept. Ruling

The AP did no one any favor with its report of the U.S. Justice Department's smackdown of Secretary of State Karen Handel's "voter verification" processes.

The news service reported

The Justice Department has rejected Georgia's attempt to require prospective voters in the state to provide proof of citizenship...Gov. Sonny Perdue signed the bill last month making Georgia the second state in the nation to require newly registering voters to prove they are U.S. citizens before casting a ballot. Under the Voting Rights Act, the state was required to get preclearance for the measure from the U.S. Department of Justice.
The accurate part of these two paragraphs is that the Governor signed a bill - it was Senate Bill 86 which requires a person to present proof of citizenship to register to vote.

Then, Aaron Gould Shienin of the AJC reports:

Handel and her aides created the system in 2007 under the requirements of the federal Help America Vote Act. The law requires states to verify a voter’s identity at the time of registration, but not necessarily to verify citizenship. In creating the system, Handel’s office extended the verification process to include citizenship; something the Justice Department said was “discretionary on the state’s part.”
This paragraph is referring to Secretary Handel's controversial scanning of the voter database in search of anomalies resulting in many registered voters being purged. It does not refer to SB 86 which was just enacted.

Or maybe it does. Neither article clearly defines if the Justice Department was talking about the previous practice, the new law or both.

Given the glacial pace of the federal government, it's doubtful they acted so quickly on a law which won't affect an election for 15 months. It's very likely they finally moved on a policy executed in the last cycle. In other words, it is a good bet the local boys and girls got it right and the wire service got wrong.

Either way, someone needs to answer for shoddy work.


Pokerista said...

All the reports I've read indicate this was a policy in place for the last election...not SB86. However, since they both essentially require the same thing (proof of citizenship through ID & SS#), it's a good bet that SB86 won't make it through preclearance either, if that issue was left open.

I believe the next step is an immediate direct appeal to the District of Columbia district court, or a lawsuit in that court.

Sara said...

Here is the letter from DoJ objecting to the citizenship verification program. It lays out in detail what is being objected to--it's the SoS policy of flagging anyone whose identity OR citizenship information cannot be verified. They specifically rely on how this policy was applied in the 2008 elections, before the statute became effective.

Karen Handel is going to have a tough time explaining why black voters were 60% more likely to be incorrectly flagged as non-citizens than white voters, and why Asians and Hispanics were also disproportionately flagged. I would have thought that perhaps higher new registration numbers for black voters would explain it, but the letter notes that black and white new voters registered in fairly equal numbers during the time period that was analyzed.

griftdrift said...

That's what I suspected. This was really shoddy reporting by the AP. There's already mass confusion on exactly what was affected.

Anonymous said...

This is a color blind computer process. Why is the burden on Karen Handel to explain why a higher percent of a racial groups status does not match what they swore to in two state systems?